Deciding whether to keep your rabbits inside or outside is a personal choice, but environmental and safety factors should be considered to make the best decision for your bunnies.
So…Inside or Outside?
Domestic rabbits were originally wild animals. They weren’t designed to live around radiators, electricity and the likes. But this is not to say they cannot live happily in these environments. Take cats and dogs for example, these are two animals which can live inside, outside or a mixture of both. Furthermore, our own race once existed solely in the great outdoors with rudimentary shelters. However, today the human race has adapted to live in a variety of environments across 196 countries, taking shelter in massive mansions to humble huts. But we still thrive…
So why should it be any different for rabbits? Here at Supreme Petfoods, we think it comes down to the owner and their environmental circumstances as to whether or not rabbits should live inside or out. The Facebook comments on our blog are a great example of this. One user explains how her rabbits built their own warren and have free access to their hutch as well as access to the family home – but leave when they get too warm. The rabbits returning to the outdoors when they are too hot speaks volumes as to where they are truly happy. On the other hand, there are numerous photos posted to our page of happy rabbits cosying-up indoors.
A home indoors
If you live in an area where predators roam freely, you may decide that keeping your rabbits inside is preferable. Similarly, if outside temperatures regularly drop below freezing, bunnies may be more comfortable in a warmer environment.
If your bunnies are housed inside your home, remember to ‘rabbit-proof’ the environment by removing any dangerous hazards such as electric cables or house plants that could be nibbled! Your rabbits will still need a suitable enclosure for resting and sleeping – just make sure that it is spacious enough to hop around in. Bunnies also love to dig and forage and will enjoy a variety of large ‘digging’ boxes filled with hay, soil and grass. They will of course need an area to go to the toilet – you can offer a shallow litter tray filled with straw or paper pellets (clay, clumping and scented litters, as well as sawdust, must be avoided as they can be harmful to rabbits).
The great outdoors
If your home can get quite noisy or you have other pets about such as lively dogs, your rabbits may prefer the quiet of living outside as long as they are well-protected from predators, wind, rain and direct sun. They will also need daily access to a run where they can exercise, dig and play. In the colder months, your bunnies will appreciate extra bedding to keep themselves cosy so it’s a good idea to stock up on extra hay. Finally, remember to check twice a day that their water bottles (including the metal ball-bearing at the tip) haven’t frozen over.
Or somewhere in-between?
A good alternative for housing rabbits in the winter months may be inside a suitable shed or unused garage – just make sure that there is still plenty of space for them to have their daily exercise and playtime. Outbuildings will need plenty of natural light, be well-ventilated and have lots of indoor enrichment. Your rabbits will enjoy different levels to jump up onto, cosy hiding places and enough room to freely run, hop and binky to their heart’s content.
Wherever your bunnies are housed, keep them entertained by providing lots of rabbit toys. Read our guide to enrichment toys here.
Slowly does it
Rabbits can be sensitive to sudden temperature changes, so if you’re considering moving your rabbits from outside to inside (or vice versa), it’s sensible to do it gradually. When moving your bunnies outside, try to choose a time of year when the weather is mild, before the freezing conditions of winter or the intense heat of summer. When moving inside, it’s best to move your rabbits before the central heating is turned on in winter so that they have time to adjust to a warmer temperature slowly.
If you are going to keep your rabbit indoors or outdoors, you should consider keeping them in pairs. Rabbits are social creatures that enjoy companionship. Keeping them in pairs will help prevent loneliness, as a bonded pair will be friends for life. Therefore, provided with a big enough enclosure, they can binky around everyday day, having all the rabbit fun in the world.
While we are on the topic of living outside, we would just like to mention how we think a rabbit enclosure should be. Firstly, we completely agree that a hutch is not enough. It is of course cruel to confine any animal to a tiny enclosure, but this does not mean all outside rabbit enclosures are small. There are some great examples across the internet of people going all out on their enclosure designs. Search ‘Rabbit enclosure ideas’ after reading this blog and you will be amazed. While you’re there, why not add ‘Indoor’ at the beginning of your search to see how indoor spaces can also make for happy rabbits.
If there is one thing you take away from this blog, please let it be this: It really does not matter whether you keep your bunny inside the home, or out in your garden. The most important factor to bear in mind is that we must always do what it is best for them. But whatever you choose to do, please do so with all your love and attention.
Looking for more rabbit care advice? All our guides can be accessed here.